The late-1990s was a time of unmatched success, both monetarily and in terms of widespread acceptance by the masses. At any given time, tens of millions were watching professional wrestling on Monday nights. World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling merchandise could be found in all popular culture-centered stores and seemingly everyone owned a NWO or Austin 3:16 t-shirt.
One of the top stars for the Vince McMahon-owned Federation was Sable, a beautiful blond from Jacksonville, Fla., who overshadowed real-life then-husband Marc Mero and became as big a star as any of her male counterparts. Her face, and other parts of her anatomy, were plastered on magazine covers, posters, videos and shirts. She was as big a part of the promotion's move into the Attitude Era.
But Sable was not the first overly sexual young woman to make a name for herself on World Wrestling Federation television.
Sunny debuted with the company in 1995 and wasted very little time in becoming a bigger star than the men she managed on television. She was the first widely marketed and merchandised female in McMahon's company. Her sex appeal made her a fan favorite and really set the stage for the women the company would later dub "Divas."
McMahon's company enjoyed tremendous success in the Attitude Era and the World Wrestling Federation (later Entertainment) Divas had a lot to do with it. So who was more important to the success of the company's women, both during that time period and beyond?
In this writer's opinion, it is Sable.
Yes, Sunny was the original. There is no denying the impact she had as a performer, both during her days with the company and all the way through the Attitude Era and even to this day. But it was Sable who took the framework laid by Sunny, added a completely different attitude to it, and made it work at an entirely different level.
She was the female face of the company during one of its hottest years (1998) and transcended the business when she appeared on the April 1999 cover of Playboy magazine. Yes, ego and greed got the best of her and she parted ways with the promotion following a heated lawsuit.
But just because things did not end as nicely for both sides as they probably should have does not minimize the impact Sable had during her short, but profitable and explosive, time in the industry during the '90s.
Sunny was, rightfully so, inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011. Her influence on the business and her paving of the way for the women that came after her were paid their rightful respect. The most downloaded woman in the world at one point, there is an argument to be made that Sunny was a trailblazer in terms of wrestling presence online, at least in a widespread sense.
Regardless of which side of this discussion you fall on, there is no denying that both Sunny and Sable were incredibly important to the future of women's wrestling.
Without them and the success they enjoyed, the very article you read now may not exist.